Tuesday, November 25, 2014

You call yourself published?

"You shouldn't call yourself published if you are self published."

This is a comment that I hear from time to time and it couldn't be more flawed. Self publishing is practically the way things are done now. The obvious drawback to self publishing is that anyone can do it. That means there is a lot of garbage out there to sift through when it comes to finding good stories. That's not to say there aren't talented writers out there. There absolutely are! So let me put it this way:

It's not how you publish; it's what you publish. Then, if you aren't one of the 1% who become superstars, it's what you continue to do with it after that.

That's right; 1% of all authors (if that) who publish are the superstars who don't have to do their own marketing because they have the next multi-million dollar money maker. All they have to do is keep writing. They have a full paid team for everything else. The rest of us have to bite, scratch and claw our way up the literary mountain. And if you think an agent  is what spells it all out, you're wrong again.

Sure, an agent is a good thing (or can be), but the self publish industry has put a big dent in your ability to get an agent. I've had my work complimented more than once by agents, yet it wasn't the next major best seller so I couldn't even get my foot in the door. Now that there's self publishing and every Tom, Dick and Harry can do it (your dog can do it), they are even tighter about who they'll take. What's more, 95% of authors with agents still have to their own marketing to sell books. Many of them have to work just as hard as I do to sell their work. They have to tour bookshops, do signings, and you'd be surprised at how hard that can be. And it's exactly the same if you get published through a company without an agent.

You see, there's an ocean of authors out there, and no matter how you publish, you still have to work to make yourself stand out over them all. How you publish is not what matters. The achievement should not be belittled just because of what route you chose to publish your work. Here, take a look at these ten self published authors who are now bestsellers; LINK.

So, next time someone says that you shouldn't be called published if you do it yourself, refer them to this information and deliver a publishing education.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Hackers on Social Media

They are bold and nothing is sacred. For the sake of spamming people with shoe ads, they'll steal your password, post on your page and send messages with virus links to everyone in your friend list. If you think that's all they'll do, guess again. They'll actually pretend to be you and talk to people on your list trying to convince them that the bogus links are safe to click on.

What you are seeing is a massive undertaking that isn't the work of just one person. No, they have entire companies of people doing this. Mostly they are in third world countries, but some actually wind up being in the US, Canada, or UK. They are constantly developing new ways to try and trick you into accepting their spy and malware. They are the worlds most awful rip off artists. And they aren't afraid to pretend to be anyone at all, including your own mother.

There are a few failing points to them that the size of the undertaking may cause them to miss. Here are a few ways you can protect yourself and exploit their own mistakes to do so.

1: Change your password regularly. And don't be simple about it. Use at least one capital letter, some numbers and symbols. Write them down and keep them next to your computer. After all, it's not a physical burglar in your home you need to worry about, it's the online monster. You should do this for all your passwords because that's the way of today. Mixed up passwords are harder for their algorithms to figure out. You should change your password every month to keep things hard to catch. So don't just use your dog's name. Use your dogs name like this 1960Fido@$^.  Facebook's password allows for this for a reason. Or mix even further 19Fido@$^60. However you can handle but make sure it's not simple or just one kind of symbols.

2: NEVER NEVER NEVER click on that! When you get sent a link from "tinyurl" or something that suggests there's a photo of you or something "cute" to see, don't click on it. They will get very clever in saying things that make it sound very personal and even endearing, but what they miss is that Facebook often shows previews of where a link will go if it's legit. Try it. Post a youtube link on your page. What does it do? It shows a pic right? The links they send don't show any previews ever because that would give them away. Fact is, no one should ever send a blind link to you without being very specific about why they think it fits your particular interests and without telling you straight what it's about. With that information missing or being very vague, it's a virus 99.9% of the time. You should immediately delete the message or report it as spam. After all, if there's an image someone wants you to see, what's preventing them from just sharing it with you directly?

3: When they try to talk to you: They will do their vague best to seem like your friend, but they are missing some valuable information:
  A: They have no idea what your actual "friend" relationship is to that person. They don't know if you ever met in person, ever talked on the phone, or anything.
  B: Apparently they don't have time to study the person they are copying. They don't know where that person lives, what they do, or anything about them that you might know. Even if you don't know, you can trip them up pretty easily. Here's what you do:

Ask them questions. If you do know something about them, ask something only that friend would remember. If not, fake them out.

"Hey, great to hear from you! Do you remember what we talked about on the phone last week?"

Now if you didn't talk on the phone, the proper answer would be "We've never spoken on the phone." Anything else is a red flag unless you actually did and they try to say yes (believe it or not this has happened). Now if they assigned a bot to the account, you will trip it up ten ways to Sunday because it's not programmed to answer those questions. It will just repeat it's programmed dialogue.

Sadly, when someone's account get's hacked, they may get blocked out of their own account, leaving you little recourse but to drop them from your friends list like a hot rock. That person will have to go through the report process to fix their account or get a new account altogether. Don't be afraid to get clever in figuring out if that person is an imposter. You may be protecting everyone in your friends list.

And always always always, be wary of non-friends sending vague "hi" messages to you. Block them. Anyone who sends you a message should be detailed and forward about why they are contacting you.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

So you want my vote

In our recent midterm election we had a voter turnout of just 1 third of the country. That's the lowest turnout in 72 years. Now you can go ahead and say that 2/3 of our country have no right to complain, but I say they are complaining in the loudest voice possible. National morale is at an all time low. Why is that? Because they aren't seeing improvements, that's why. Just more problems. Problems like;

75,000 American veterans and their families HOMELESS. And just what are they doing about it? The media is sure busy hyping ISIS and Ebola, but what about our larger problems at home like this one. And it's not just our veterans. LINK.  Yeah, go look at that page and it's details about homelessness. It's not a pretty picture. A new program is needed and soon.

The battle for minimum wage increase: Don't forget our unemployment rate of 5.9% (that has actually dropped from almost 10% in the last 4 years, but for what kind of jobs?). When you look at the poverty ratio of 13.6% you have to wonder how everyone makes ends meet. Obviously it's not helping that much with homelessness at an all time high. People with families aren't covering the cost of living and there's more to that than just the pay rate. Yes, I know corporations will just increase charges when the rate is raised in 2016. That's why the next item is:

The ridiculous cost of living: Utilities raise their rates whenever they feel the slightest pinch to their bottom line. In most places they are the only people you can go to for your electricity so there's no competition. That's being abused as some companies raise their rates as often as 3 times a year. Yes, we should do our best to save energy, but the corporate response to raise costs to cover it. So you still pay out the nose for your electricity. Unfair charges are everywhere from gas and oil to the grocery store. Every year the companies boast about how they made millions of additional profits and they're so damn happy. We don't see those profits. No, instead, just to live, we have to pay, pay, pay and pay some more. The rampant raising of costs needs to be nipped in the bud. One way to get started on this:

Corporations in government: They don't belong there and it needs to end. The government should be the one regulating corporations, not the other way around. But just when it looks like the people will get some respite, some corporation is paying their way to riches and loopholes. Kick them out of government and make them behave. Just because you're a billionaire and own oil, grocery chains, or automobile manufacturing, doesn't mean you get to own politicians. They should get no better treatment than the "working class". It's because of them that the middle class is all but extinct. Kick them out and put a cap on the rate raising madness.

Public Ignorance: LINK.  Here's one for you. Our country ranks number 2 in pure ignorance of things like teen pregnancy and unemployment rates. That follows hand in hand with acceptance versus stigma of various groups and ethnicities. Rememeber this? United we stand, divided we fall. We are divided and very little is being done to correct that. That ignorance goes all the way to the top with our politicians. Just check out the quotes they get caught with. Google stupid political quotes or something like that and prepare to have your mind blown.

Education: Here's a fun one. With all the failing school systems someone had the bright idea to make it worse with common core. Don't get help for the teachers in their overcrowded class rooms or anything like that, noooooooo. Instead, let us complicate the material! Then, while they're overloaded and underpaid, let's give them all guns. Because they don't have enough on their minds already. Never mind the failure of IEPs and education law. With the consistent increase in IEP's and kids with issues, the system needs to change to compensate or leave a lot of kids behind. Another failing in government promises.

It's stress, stress, stress, and people aren't seeing any relief. What do they expect? Voting truly looks like a useless endeavor. None of the major problems of our country are getting suitable improvements. You want my vote? Show me that these issues are going to actually get action. Show me help for our homeless instead of jail for people who feed them. Bring back "protect and serve"  in our police force. Correct the cost of living and improve education resources. Show me that real work is actually being done. We're supposed to be the greatest country in the world, but that is being ruined. Put a stop to it! (yeah, I know I barely scratched the surface)

Friday, November 7, 2014

Autism is not a reason to murder children

I figured there were enough people talking about this already, but the media is making this look like a trend and it has to stop!

London McCabe's mother, pressured by taking care of her disable husband and a six year old non-verbal with autism, threw him off a damn bridge. Then she called the police and turned herself in claiming voices told her to do it. It's debatable that she's been at the snapping limit for some time from snippets of her blog still floating around. She even had people sending donations to help her. I'm sure they just weren't enough. All the same, I'm not buying that she had any good reason kill her child. Why not call the police and tell them she's at the bridge and ABOUT to kill him? Maybe then he wouldn't be dead. Yes, it would be traumatic, but even as an autistic myself, I say that's better than dead. I have no compassion for this woman for the death of her child who was seen as pretty well behaved by witnesses. Anyway....

Katie McCarron's case is a bit older by way of 2006. Her mother smothered her with a plastic bag. Katie had autism. The woman is currently incarcerated. I can only hope her child's memory haunts her every day as it should with anyone who kills their own child. Her mother Karen cited guilt over vaccinating her child, and blamed vaccines for her desire to commit murder. This is just one more reason why "anti-vaccine thinking" will never gain ground with me. They'd rather see children dead than with autism. Regardless, it doesn't end there.

Jude Mirra, murdered by his mother in 2014 by lethal dose of drugs because he has autism. 8 years old. She also tried to kill herself but failed. Depression is no laughing matter and I'm not one to mock it, but kids are dying needlessly and for little more reason than they have a medical condition. Before you come at me with her hardships let me just toss this out.... MOM WAS AN EFFING MILLIONAIRE! You'd think there were still other routes than DEATH. Especially when you're loaded to the gills with money. Yes, I read the details of the case. She claims to have killed him to save him.... bullshit.

Alex Spourdalakis, autistic, 14 and brutally murdered in 2013. Lack of benefits and financial hardships seen as the trigger. While I refuse to excuse people for killing their children, there is a matter in dire need of attention. It is TRUE that proper services are lacking by way of lofty costs that put them out of reach for suffering families. Depending on the state you live in, you can be in a hard hard place. It can feel more lonely and desolate that the darkest pit of hell. So those in political power better start paying attention.

Fact is, there is a lot more than just families with disabled kids snapping and killing. Lack of jobs, lack of services, lack of assistance in education or medical, lack of respite assistance, lack of a living wage if you do have a damn job.... people are losing it out there. The common citizen is facing stressors that our day and age shouldn't be. Add disabilities to it and it seems to be pushed even further with these people.  Like I said, I don't excuse them for it. I'm sickened by it.

When treatments and supports are where they are supposed to be, I've seen children brought back from the brink and given hope. Autism is not a reason to take a life. Not only does that message need to get pounded out clearly, but our system needs fixing at the same time.